Hormone Headaches: Symptoms, Causes, Complications, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

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woman suffering from Hormone Headaches

1Overview

Hormones are produced by the endocrine glands. It serves as the “messengers” of the body that sends signals throughout the system. There are several types’ hormones that have a specific role in the body, some are:

Aldosterone

This hormone is produced in the cortex of the adrenal gland, which is located just right above the kidneys. Aldosterone plays an important role in regulating the blood pressure of a person. It detects the levels of potassium in the blood and sends signals to the body if the levels are interrupted. This hormone also regulates sodium that contributes to the lowering of the blood pressure in the body. Some say that aldosterone also plays a role in acid- base and electrolyte balance.

Glucagon

Glucagon is produced by the pancreas that regulates the glucose in the blood stream. Sends signals to the liver to absorb sugar when needed to prevent hypoglycemia.

Insulin

Like glucagon, it is also produced in the pancreas that is used to absorb sugar in the body and converts it into a form of energy that the body needs.

Parathyroid Hormone

This hormone acts as a calcium regulator. This hormone acts on kidneys, intestines, and bones to release calcium into the bloodstream that is needed for the production of vitamin D. In the kidneys the hormone inhibits the release of calcium in the urine.

Thyroxin (T4)

Produced in the Thyroid gland, this hormone contributes in the digestive system, metabolism in the liver, neurological development, cardiovascular system, and muscle function.

Growth hormone

Produced in the pituitary gland, this hormone is responsible for a growth spurt in children and teenagers.

There are also hormones that specialized on the reproductive system.

In men

Testosterone

The Pituitary gland sends signals in the testes to produce testosterone hormones that help in the development of the primary and secondary sex characteristics in men.

In women

Oxytocin

It plays an important role in the childbirth. Produced by the hypothalamus in the brain this hormone makes the uterus contracts thus initiating the first phase of labor. Oxytocin is essential in the movement of milk after childbirth.

Prolactin

The primary role of prolactin is the production of breast milk for the baby. Some studies have found out that prolactin also acts in the immune system and metabolism.

Estrogen

The ovaries mainly produce this hormone that is responsible for the development of the physical characteristics in a woman. Estrogen plays a major role in changes in the body like hair growth in the armpit and the pubic area, the growth of breast, widening of the hips and also starts the menstrual cycle. It also regulates your mood in the brain, bone development, etc.

Progesterone

Produced by the corpus luteum, Progesterone makes the lining of the Uterus thick in preparation for the pregnancy of a woman. If there was no conception, the progesterone drops thus initiating the sloughing of the lining hence menstruation starts.

When these sex hormones, especially estrogen and progesterone, are disrupted problems may arise especially in women. Symptoms may be apparent like headaches or so called “hormonal headaches.”

2Symptoms

Hormonal headaches are like migraines in nature. A headache is felt when there is a sudden drop in the level of hormones in the body. Usually, it is characterized as throbbing pain either one side of the head. Reports say that this is commonly felt by women before the menstrual cycle starts. Other symptoms may vary in each woman; some may feel cravings for food, loss of appetite, body malaise, bloating and sometimes acne.

3Causes

Female hormone (estrogen), is said to be connected in hormonal headaches.
A sudden drop in this hormone can cause headaches. Oral contraceptives can also contribute to the imbalances in the body.

In pregnancy, the estrogen level rises but for some cases expecting mothers tend to have headaches during the first trimester as their body adjusts to the changes.
Before Menstruation starts, hormones like progesterone and estrogen is active during this time.

Aside from hormones, stress, unhealthy lifestyle, consumption of caffeine and genetic factors can also aggravate headaches.

4Complications

Some women who experience this kind of a headache may not be able to handle pain especially with those who have a low tolerance for pain. It may affect the activities of daily living of a person who has this condition. Interruption and low productivity in work, short temperament may be observed, impatient at times and may demonstrate anxiousness.
In worst cases, others may experience vomiting and dizziness, increase in vital signs like the blood pressure, sleep disturbances.

NOTE: if sudden symptoms like shortness of breath, rash, decrease in the level of consciousness, muscle weakness must all be reported and seek medical attention immediately.

5Diagnosis

The doctor will get blood or a urine sample depends on the hormone that is to be tested, to determine the levels in the body. Observe the proper protocol in the collection of the specimen before obtaining the sample. After the collection, it will be sent to the laboratory. Observe cleanliness at all times to prevent any alterations in the results.

New ways of diagnosing hormonal headaches are arising. Some researchers indicate that for the physician to give the proper treatment for the patient, he should classify a headache if it has these characteristics: throbbing, one side, etc.

Also keeping a diary and taking note of the onset of the head ache may also help the doctor identify and differentiate if it is indeed caused by hormones.

6Treatment

Keep in mind that treatments must be made accordingly to the patients’ needs.

When you start experiencing headaches, it is best to manage it with some home remedies.

  • Apply ice on the nape, the vasoconstriction property of ice can also help in decrease the pain. Make sure to place it in an ice pack or a wrap it in a piece of cloth to protect your skin.
  • Lying in a dark and quiet room can also help manage the pain, a decrease in the external stimuli can help your body relax.
  • Have a well-balanced diet and do exercises.
  • Practice deep breathing exercises which can help your body relax

If the headaches persist, doctors can also prescribe medications to manage the pain

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is an analgesic that blocks Cox-1 and Cox-2 that leads to the inhibition of prostaglandin production that is responsible for swelling and the sensation of pain. Triptans can also be prescribed in addition to NSAIDs.

Pregnant women or breastfeeding mothers should consult first her physician to give the best alternatives to prevent harming the baby.

For menopause women, hormonal therapy can be used to treat headaches caused by sudden hormonal changes. Pills or patches is recommended by the physician to maintain the levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body, thus minimizing the occurrence of headaches.

7Prevention

Correction of the levels of hormones is a preventive measure that is used today.
The doctors may suggest hormonal therapy; it can be a form of a pill or a patch.

Pill

It contains synthetic estrogen and progesterone that is similar to the hormones produced by the ovaries. Obtaining a thorough medical history is a must to determine the right pills to be given. Progestin only pill can be prescribed to women who are suffering from a hormonal headache.

Patch

This is another form of contraceptive that contains progesterone and estrogen. It is worn on the skin either on the upper arm, back, the lower part of the abdomen or on the buttocks just like a band aid. 60-65% of the contents of the patch is absorbed in the body. Special instructions must be followed, allow the patch to stay on your skin for seven days to optimize the absorption of the hormones.

Side effects can be felt like:

Nausea and vomiting– take frequent small feedings. Biscuits may help alleviate vomiting. Safety precautions must be observed.

Acne– a breakout may be seen on the face because of the hormonal changes in the body.

Weight gain varies from women, some of them does not gain weight gain

Mood swings if mood swings occur, report it to your doctor to change the type of pill you are taking.

Contraindications to be considered before taking hormonal therapy:

  • Medical history of blood clots
  • History of heart problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Uterine bleeding
  • Obese patients
  • Chronic kidney disease

Medication can also be given to prevent hormonal headaches. Either: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), calcium channel blockers, Beta blockers, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants may be taken every day.

Lifestyle changes can also prevent hormonal headaches. Proper diet and exercise must be observed. Taking in food that is low in salt can decrease the risk of having headaches. Daily exercises like cardio routines and jogging help the proper circulation of blood in the body.

Relaxation techniques are also taught to patients who prefer natural remedies.

Guided imagery

Visualization of a tranquil, quiet place can help you relax e.g. the beach.

Deep breathing exercises

Inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly help the person relax.

Aroma therapy

The smell of lavender according to researchers, aids in relaxation.

Yoga or Meditation

In yoga, a great deal of concentration is needed to do the poses, and in return, it relaxes the muscles of the body. Meditation puts the brain into a Trans, aiding in the relaxation.